The Lions expect to have an explosive offense this season. Well, they'd better have one. Their defense looks like it will struggle mightily against the pass, and that could lead to a lot of shootouts.
Peyton Manning makes a lot of defenses look bad. But in the third exhibition, the main dress rehearsal for the regular season, he made it look way too easy in a 37-10 victory over the Lions. He went 23-for-27 for 233 yards and three touchdowns.
Poor pass rush. Poor coverage. Poor tackling.
"We've got to defend the pass better," coach Rod Marinelli said. "That's rush and cover. It's all together. It works together. It's not one guy. It's not one group. It's coaching, and it's players doing those things right."
Marinelli was a defensive line coach his entire career before he became the Lions' head coach last year, and he has a solid reputation following his work with Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice in Tampa Bay.
But each member of the Lions' defensive line has question marks. Left end Dewayne White is a Rod Marinelli protege from Tampa Bay, but he has never been a full-time starter. Under tackle Cory Redding excelled after moving from end last season, but he hasn't spent a full season inside. Nose tackle Shaun Rogers can be a monster in the middle, a true difference-maker, but he needs to be healthy, in shape and motivated to live up to his ability. Right end Kalimba Edwards has a lot of potential, but he has never realized it.
If the defensive line can't put pressure on the quarterback, the Lions are in real trouble because the secondary is unimpressive. When Marinelli calls it his "no-name secondary," he does it with affection. But it is a no-name group that makes Lions fans nervous. The Lions traded Dre' Bly in the off-season, leaving them with Fernando Bryant, Stanley Wilson, Travis Fisher and Keith Smith at cornerback. Veteran safety Kenoy Kennedy isn't the big-hitter he was in Denver, and Daniel Bullocks and Gerald Alexander are young.
"We're going to keep plugging along," first-year defensive coordinator Joe Barry said. "We're going to do what we do. I'm not going to sit here and make a bunch of bold predictions. There's one thing that we stress, and it's to play hard, play fast, be prepared and to finish.
"Those are the only four things that I consistently talk about with our group. Don't say a bunch of stuff that you can't back up. Just say those four things. If we can do those four things, I think we'll be pretty successful."